Boodjamulla National Park in north western Queensland is one of those strange places where people whose most vigorous daily activity is getting on and off the toilet (sadly not a squat toilet) are suddenly impelled to walk for multiple kilometres and even to canoe. Perhaps the bone-shaking six hour drive on rutted red dirt tracks knocks loose some nerve junctions and the resulting new synapses recall more ancient times (not metaphorical) when their bodies did what all animals with legs are meant to do, walk.
After our own neurone shattering drive, we were excited to have two full days when we did not need to get into the car and could walk, kayak, even run, and need only sit once a day (remember, the latrines are not squat toilets). Our first day, we only had time to walk up to the Cascades, a series of surreal tufa formations where fallen trees are entombed in tufa deposited by the mineral rich water. The water was low after a dry wet season and we had to lie down to get wet in the water. As dusk fell, we hiked up a set of stone stairs past red rocks radiating heat to a look-out on a free standing island in Lawn Hill Creek where the red cliffs of the gorge above deep green waters were visible through the lucullan vegetation.
Next morning, we had a pleasant few hour amble along the tracks of the southern gorge. I wandered along the inland route, past clumps of striking purple flowers in a shallow gully between two broken ribs of red sandstone rock. A gentle track leads up onto a plateau of flat red sandstone where you can look down into the deep green waters of the upper gorge. A couple of paddlers in rental canoes made V line streaks through the calm water.
The track drops abruptly down to creek level and traverses a dirt path under large cabbage palms, each side of the narrow track strewn with the debris of wet season floods. At Middle Gorge, a shallow tufa falls separates the Upper and Middle Gorges. Cabbage and pandanus palms flourish, and the deep red cliffs fall sheer into the water. I swam in the clear green waters diving off the swimming pontoon and lazily floating under the small waterfalls.
The next section of track weaves around red rock slabs, through small rock cliffs and junctions, and climbs to a viewpoint of the falls, continuing in a lackadaisical fashion past other view points and sculpted red sandstone outcrops to look over the Constance Range and the grassy plains of the camping area. Another set of stone steps leads down to river level and a cement path, overhung with clusters of palms runs along the river past swimming platforms to the campground.
There are three other marked walks in Boodjamulla, one circles the island stack and gives good views down to the green waters of Lawn Hill Creek. A second leads along the base of the island stack to an old aboriginal camp area where there are some faded rock art drawings and shell middens. Along the way, this walk passes under stunning red cliffs filled with corners, dihedrals and faces, a climbers dream if you could climb without violating indigenous dream-time beliefs.
My favourite walk was the short stroll (non-walkers would not call this a stroll) up to the Constance Range. The track wanders downstream along Lawn Hill creek and then climbs up red rock slabs and steps onto the escarpment of the Constance Range where an expansive view stretches away across a millennial old landscape of Mitchell Grass and eucalpyt.
It is a lazy paddle upstream between towering red rock cliffs to the tufa falls at Indarri, and there is a built portage track to carry boats to the upper gorge, where red rock cliffs continue for another half kilometre before subsiding into the surrounding Constance Range. At the end, the deep creek abruptly shallows to a series of ankle deep braided channels lined with large paperbarks. If you paddle after lunch, the gorge is eerily quiet as the hire canoes go out only in the mornings.